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ICYMI: Our Social Media Posts This Week – Mar. 27 - Apr. 2, 2016

Below is a review of the posts (on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter) from the past week.  You can check out the full posts by clicking on the links.

In the post on Sunday 3/27/16, a federal court ruled that a former Dollar Tree assistant manager’s work environment was not hostile. Doreen was hired in Dec 2010 and promoted to assistant store manager shortly after. In Jan 2012 a new supervisor came in. Doreen says that the supervisor harassed her on the bases of sex and religion for a month until she (Doreen) was discharged. Details are in the post, but include that the supervisor told her if she wore a necklace with a cross pendant again he’d rip it off her neck. Many claims were in the initial suit but were disposed of by the trial court; this appeal centered on only the retaliation (hostile work environment) claim. The appellate court also found insufficient evidence of a HWE.

TAKEAWAY: You don’t have to like where you work or the people with whom you work, but that doesn’t make the environment illegal.

In the post on Monday 3/28/16 we learned that a jury awarded $450,000 in a discrimination suit against the county and treasurer. The case was filed in federal court in Illinois by the former Comptroller. Linda alleged that after a hospitalization, she had an impairment that qualified as a disability under the ADA. When she returned to work, she found out her duties were being transferred to someone less experienced than she AND that she had to train that person. More details underlying the suit are in the post (including comments that an employer should never utter). After another hospitalization, her position was eliminated but she alleges that the duties were performed by the other person she trained. Is it any wonder she filed suit under the ADA? Or that the jury found in her favor?

TAKEAWAY: No matter what the employer thinks about a person, it should never be stated aloud unless a lawsuit is sought. Employees with disabilities, or those who have a record of disability or are perceived as having a disability, should be treated like everyone else unless and until they request an accommodation. Anything else might be illegal.

In the post on Tuesday 3/29/16 we talked about when you should consult with an attorney about harassment or discrimination in the workplace. If you are asking the question, the answer is probably NOW. An employee who doesn’t complain but quits may lose the right to sue. Likewise, if an employer is creating a trail in the employee’s file, the employee may or may not have certain rights. Other ways an attorney can help an employee are in the post.

TAKEAWAY: The flip side is that the time for the employer to consult an attorney about alleged harassment or discrimination in the workplace is also NOW. The attorney can help ensure that (1) an investigation is done and done properly and (2) appropriate, legal action is taken as a result if warranted. The attorney can also help the employer document any findings and the basis for taking or not taking any action.

The post on Wednesday 3/30/16 was about a former employee accusing Hahnemann University Hospital of age discrimination. Hits close to home … In a lawsuit filed earlier this year in federal court, the former employee claimed age discrimination based on his job termination. The complaint says that Richard was employed at the Hospital almost 40 years and unexpectedly discharged in mid 2013. He says no reason was given for the discharge (NOTE that, all else being equal and no agreement to the contrary, the employer is not required to have or provide a reason for the discharge, a result of PA’s strong at-will doctrine). Anyhoo, Richard says that he was the most senior of all employees in his department and the discharge was based on age discrimination. The relief he seeks in the suit is detailed in the post.

TAKEAWAY: It is not illegal to discharge an older employee, but make sure you have a solid legal basis to do so, otherwise you too might be staring down the barrel of an age discrimination suit.

In the post on Thursday 3/31/16 we learned that a Vail hotel paid a #1M sex harassment settlement – yep, that’s a lot of snow! The settlement amount from the federal suit brought by the EEOC goes to 8 employees (at least 2 of whom were in the US illegally). The civil suit came on the heels of a criminal case in which the housekeeping manager was convicted of sexually harassing 2 females on his staff (find out how in the post). He was convicted of criminal extortion and unlawful sexual contact. The trial revealed that the primary accusers didn’t complain for more than a year after the fact and that when they did, management was hostile and eventually fired them. Later the police filed criminal charges, he was convicted, and thereafter the EEOC filed its civil suit. The EEOC pointed out that even though some of the women were not in the US legally, the law still protected them in the workplace and suit was appropriate on their behalf. The complaint even alleges that the company’s owner went to have funding cut to the entity assisting the women in filing their EEOC charge (they did not have an attorney) if the continued to assist.

TAKEAWAY: Remember that the laws about discrimination and harassment apply to everyone in the workplace; don’t think that illegal status of an employee will overcome an illegal action by the employer.

The post on Friday 4/1/16 also contained big bucks: an Indian-origin US man won $3.1M in a discrimination suit – no joke! This man was among 47 immigrants denied recruitment as police officers for being foreign born alleged the complaint filed against the Chicago police department. 2 men, one of Indian origin and the other a Belize-born man, won $3.1M. They both took and passed the 2006 police exam but they were rejected for having lived in the US fewer than 10 years. They filed EEOC charges. The suit alleged that the residency rule adversely impacted foreign-born applicants.

TAKEAWAY: As in any other area, make sure that hiring policies have a rational relationship to the job and do not have an adverse impact (intended or otherwise) on any protected class.

Finally, in the post yesterday 4/2/16 – another close to home – we asked is the Rittenhouse Hotel guilty of age discrimination? Here, a former housekeeper, John, filed an age discrimination suit against the Rittenhouse Hotel (the name under which Hersha Hospitality Management operates the property). He said he worked as an assistant executive housekeeper and performed well. He further alleges that Ken, a much younger male, was hired as co-assistant despite having less experience; further, the hotel gave Ken a more desirable shift and reassigned John’s duties to Ken. When John, age 53, was fired but Ken was not, John sued.

TAKEAWAY: This case is recent and as of now we have nothing further. But we can caution employers in this situation to ensure they have valid legal bases for any adverse action taken against someone in a protected class.

References (4)

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